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Guest Post: The End of a 2,000-Year Old Content Model

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Guest Post: The End of a 2,000-Year Old Content Model

Kevin Ashbridge Ph.D of of SDL sets five general principles the future of content will follow

In the year 196 B.C., a congress of priests in Ancient Egypt issued a decree that established the divine right of their new ruler, King Ptolemy V. That decree was inscribed in stone using the two Egyptian scripts of the time, hieroglyphics and Demotic script.

A translation of the decree was then added to the lower-third of the stone, covering the other major language of the ancient world, Ancient Greek. The stone was displayed at a temple at nearby Sais, disseminating its information to all who came to visit. This was the Rosetta stone.

In 2018, a CMO decreed a new marketing campaign for their business. That decree was inscribed on a digital parchment called a “web page” using the two British scripts of the time, English and emoji. A translation of the decree was added in the other major languages of the modern world and all were displayed on a website, disseminating its information to all who came to visit. This is the Global Content Operating Model.

Information flow

The point of my quirky introduction here is to demonstrate that humanity has been using the same content workflow for thousands of years. The tools and titles may be different, but the basic elements of pushing information from an authoritative source to the public have changed very little.

More to the point, the flow of content has been pretty much a one-way thing. If a company has something to say to its customers, they’ll use this 2000-year old content operating model of creating, translating and disseminating content. The consumer has little choice in what content they are given, either set in stone or on a web page. It’s the pre-built message that the company wants them to hear.

While the ‘high priests’ of marketing may be the same as ever, one thing that has changed over the years is the consumer. In modern marketing parlance, we’d say that today’s consumer expects content that is personally relevant to them. (Would some Ancient Egyptians have preferred to know who King Ptolemy V was dating at the time rather than the rights of his divine ascendance?)

Of course, it’s technology that’s driving this change. It’s not just because electronic content is vastly more flexible than stone tablets, but because technology is enabling a fundamental change in the 2,000-year-old content operating model.

Take voice-activated assistants, for example. The consumption of content no longer starts with a presentation pre-built by a company. It begins with the consumer asking a question and expecting a relevant answer drawn from the company’s data store.

This is an important point to understand: In a content model powered by Artificial Intelligence, it’s the consumer that decrees what they want to hear, not the company. The flow of the content model has effectively been reversed. This is the first time in history this has been possible.

An AI-Driven Content Model

Businesses and the marketing priesthood will need to change their mindset, tools and definitions of what content is in this new AI-driven future. It begins with understanding that the future of content will follow at least five general principles:

First, content will create itself; using machine learning to build multiple variations of existing content automatically.

Second, content will be agile; creating, translating and delivering these variations instantly and reactively.

Third, content will organise itself; generating taxonomies within existing long-form content to be better searched and delivered dynamically.

Fourth, content with be automatically secure; understanding which data is sensitive and applying policies for security.

Fifth, AI-driven content will be your best salesperson; it will use all of the other principles to develop a conversation with every customer, individually. The content of that conversation will be created, translated and delivered securely, in real-time, as a contextually relevant presentation for an ‘audience of one’.

We may believe we’ve come a long way since ancient marketing teams promoted the benefits of donkey’s milk in Cleopatra’s bathtub. However, it’s clear that most of the content created in the travel industry today still follows this same 2000-year old model.

But not for long. The content presentation we put so much effort into pre-building today will bear little resemblance to the presentation that is delivered to customers in an AI-driven tomorrow. Is your business ready? Are you rearchitecting your content to be consumed first by machines, where it is atomised, componentised and reorganised in near infinite combinations?

If not, it may be worth issuing a decree.

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